My grandparents, retired New Hampshire dairy farmers, probably would not recognize the advertising slogan “Just Do It” and neither of them has ever worn a swoosh, but their attitude toward life makes them an embodiment of spontaneity that would make Nike drool. Full of spunk at 77 years old, they have never hesitated in the face of an opportunity to have fun.
There was the time they jumped in the car without a second thought when my parents called to say that Texas magnate Ross Perot had put me and the rest of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra on a plane to New York to play at a $2000/plate benefit dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Six hours later Gram and Gramp (never having been to Manhattan before) pulled up to the Astoria’s front door in a beat-up old pickup and asked for a room. Somehow they talked the concierge into letting them sit in the press box that evening to watch us perform. Leonard Bernstein was on the program and Barbara Walters emceed the star-studded affair. Hugging my grandparents in utter shock at the decadent after party that night, I learned that their hotel room had cost them $350, which back in 1986 had to equal half their monthly salaries.
Another example of their gumption was my grandparents’ tradition of visiting a different U.S. city with friends for a weekend every fall. Communal happy hours usually led to a lot of laughs. Each trip is now immortalized by a “bed picture,” – a photograph they always had taken of the whole group – sometimes as many as five couples – all on one bed. They’re clothed in these photos, but I can imagine that some fairly bawdy banter was flying about.
Speaking of bawdy, please don’t go reading sexual innuendo into what I’m about to say (although my grandparents did bear five children) but “Just do it” might be the perfect slogan for their marriage. Back in 1948 when my grandfather first wanted the job of caretaker at the farm where they eventually built their life together, he was told by the estate’s owner that she had been hoping to hire a married man. That was all the reason Gram and Gramp needed to get hitched. Two months later they just did it – and have shared a common impulse ever since.
The bittersweet reason that my grandparents’ fall trips with their friends have ended is that they have outlived so many of their peers. Still, they “just do it” every fall, climbing a bit more gingerly into their Lincoln Town car and heading out the driveway to anywhere, just the two of them. Surely their spontaneous pluck has led to their longevity. But it is probably also an attitude that would have allowed them to die happy at almost any age.
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